By • Sep 19th, 2009 • Pages: 1 2

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The true horror surrounding SONNY BOY is the lynching of Robert Carroll after the extremely limited run this film suffered due to the producers’ negligence and a public outcry by a select few who felt it their need to take up a cause that would censor 96 minutes of celluloid and shield it from public vision. This popcorn protest caused a theater chain to buckle and drop the film. This comes not too long after John McNaughton’s HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER really stirred the pot of controversy. Furthermore, one of these loud-mouthed do-gooders saw to it that Robert Carroll was basically excised from her Hollywood circle, and crowned herself as his career executioner.

Just as the public could not view this film, Robert details the tribulations he endured to actually see a print himself. His story is quite similar to Jack Hill’s quest to see his own SPIDER BABY. Of all the places that this film was available to view, it was broadcast late one Friday night on TCM Underground.

Robert Carroll’s vision for the Graeme Whiffler script differs from what was on the scripted page. Whereas, Graeme writes graphically harsh horror films in the truest sense of the genre, Mr. Carroll saw this as an opportunity for audiences to be wrought with compassion for the young Sonny Boy and see that beauty and kindness can dwell in the murkiest depths of ugliness and black-encrusted souls. To Mr. Carroll, this was a fable.

Sonny Boy is degraded and scarred from the brutishness of his adoptive father who protested the infant from the moment his ill-fated soul arrived. Sonny Boy was unknowingly bundled in the back of his murdered parents’ car and taken along with luggage and a hotel’s B&W television to Slue. Slue was equally upset with the B&W television as he was with the baby. Paul L. Smith portrays Slue with the very same meanness as he did in creating Hamidou, the prison guard in Midnight Express.
Slue owns a wanton wasteland of cars, emptied wallets, household goods, and a grave-filled desert of unlucky souls, such as rabble-rousing police officers with whom shared a different viewpoint than this burly brawler. From atop a lookout tower, heavy artillery and his “wife” Pearl, played by the recently deceased David Carradine, protect Slue’s fortress.

Pearl’s motherly instincts insist that this child be her own and she gives Slue hell for attempting to disregard and kill it. The new child is sentenced to a life lived in a darkened hangar where food, such as live chickens, are deposited through a drop. Oh yeah, the kid had his tongue removed too.

Sonny Boy is treated in a ghastly manner, and is let go to do the evil deeds that Slue needs done. Killing is a top priority. All is well when the boy is locked away. However, Sonny Boy gets loose and finds beauty in a young female who is attracted to this young man devoid of speech, education or human social skills. There is only young love at play between the two. We see the tender human factor that the director was striving for.

This sets the stage for a crusade of townspeople in the style of Phantom of the Opera that take to the desert and destroy this misunderstood boy. Sonny Boy is hunted and this proves to be Slue’s downfall.

I liked the film and I also had the opportunity to read Graeme Whiffler’s original script. They differ. If you get an opportunity to see this film, please do so.

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4 Responses »

  1. This is a film I have long admired and until this great interview was in the dark about it’s production history and why such a brave and trasgressive film should fall through the cracks.
    The untimely death this year of David Carradine bought the film back to me as I was thinking of films to screen in memory of David always underestimated by even his fans at times. SONNY BOY is easily one of his best performances. THE SERPENTS EGG is another of his films that deserves reappraisal.

    This is an important piece you have done Franco and let me be the first to say so wonderful work…..

    Now I will prepare my piece on POOR PRETTY EDDIE you have just raised the bar over here at FIR.

  2. Interesting review. Did you mean Pearl (female) is played by David Carradine (male)?

  3. I hope someone can shed a light on how long does the uncensored version of the movie run

  4. It’s showing again on TCM Underground tonight.

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